Quite simply, Leuchie House couldn’t operate without them. They’re involved in virtually every aspect of everything we do, constantly bringing their ideas, skills and enthusiasm to our respite breaks service. Each year they donate a total of around 4,000 hours of their time free of charge, saving our charity around £40,000.
I’m talking of course about Leuchie House’s award-winning team of volunteers, known as the Friends of Leuchie. Some of the team have been with us through thick and thin since before Leuchie was set up as an independent charity in 2011. Others stay with us for shorter periods of time, moving on as demands on their time grow or their lives change direction. Like many charities who rely on voluntary support, we took the opportunity to celebrate our volunteers’ contributions, and to encourage others to join us, during national Volunteers Week last month. In preparing for our campaign we interviewed a wide cross-section of our volunteers to find out more about why they volunteered and what they got out of it.
The results were fascinating.
While we had been conscious for some time of a widening demographic mix amongst our volunteers, who now range in age from 16 to 70 plus, the interviews also revealed a host of differing motivations for giving their time to Leuchie. Once viewed as the domain of the retired looking for a meaningful way to fill their time, we’re now seeing a significant expansion in the age range and objectives of our volunteer base, as well as the perceived benefits they gain from volunteering.
At the youngest end of the scale, mirroring a national trend, we’ve seen an increase in the number of young people interested in volunteering at Leuchie. In our interviews, those in the final years of high school talked about building their self-confidence and social skills, as well as giving themselves an edge in higher education and job applications. Seventeen-year-old Saskia told us: “After school I’d like to study medicine and I thought that volunteering at Leuchie would give me some valuable insight into related work. It has made me more open to talking to new people which I am very pleased about, and given me some experience in a caring environment which will hopefully improve my chances of being accepted into medicine at university.” Sixteen-year-old Archie has found that although he had a specific goal in mind, he has benefited from volunteering in more ways than he was expecting. “I came to Leuchie because I was keen for the volunteering aspect of my Duke of Edinburgh silver award to be worthwhile and rewarding. Before I started I was much more shy. After just a few months my self-confidence has got far better and stronger.”
With an increasingly competitive job market for new graduates, savvy young students have also cottoned on to volunteering as a way to gain valuable work experience and stand out to future employers. Further along the employment scale, we also have a growing number of volunteers who have been temporarily out of the workforce bringing up children. They’ve come to Leuchie to refresh and update their skills as a way to get back into paid employment. Equipped with new skills and enhanced confidence, it’s enormously rewarding to watch some of our volunteers go on to new roles in the job market. Or in some cases to find their perfect role among the Leuchie staff team. Two of our current administrative staff and our interim head of operations were all Leuchie volunteers before we spotted that they were a natural fit for some of our own job vacancies! That’s another great, and mutually beneficial, aspect of volunteering. It opens up all kinds of opportunities in the workplace and you never know where it will lead. There’s never been any question that Leuchie guests and staff benefit enormously from our volunteer programme. They help enhance our guests’ experiences at Leuchie, building the kind of warm relationships that help make their breaks extra special. To hear from volunteers that they gain so much too and that it makes a genuine difference to their future plans is a real boost, not just for Leuchie but across the charity sector.
Jodie Martin, HR Manager, Leuchie House